Thursday, September 13, 2012

Olympic police state lingers in UK


Source: Press TV

There were speculations before the Olympics that the British government is using the games as an excuse to impose a police state in London that would be otherwise impossible; now that seems to have come true as the ‘un-free zones’ remain after the sports event.

British councils and police retain powers to single out public spaces and suspend certain freedoms, including handing out leaflets and protesting there that means one will be punished in those zones for doing a perfectly legal thing.

According to a map published on September 11 by Manifesto Club freedom campaign group, there are a dizzying 435 such zones in London that cover almost half of the whole area of the city, mostly in its central parts.

Citizens can be fined or prosecuted in the restricted zones, now also imposed on some other cities, for leafleting, walking a dog, using alcohol, just being there, and in London, for protesting.

There are 110 leafleting zones in London where you should have a license if you want to hand out leaflets -- that is you will not be free to even campaign for a human rights or relief cause unless the government sees it fit.

There are also 32 active “dispersal zones” as well as many inactive ones in the British capital.

In a dispersal zone you must leave the area if a police officer orders you to do so for a specified time, and you are not allowed to return to that area before the time designated by the officer or you face the consequences.

The euphemism of a dispersal zone in effect authorizes the security forces to impose a curfew in a region without openly announcing it for a particular group of people if the officers have “reasonable grounds for believing that [the group’s] presence or behavior has resulted, or is likely to result, in a member of the public being harassed, intimidated, alarmed or distressed.”

London is also decorated with a special restricted protest zone around the parliament buildings, where demonstrators, or even a single demonstrator, should also gain authorization if they want to hold a rally.

People are banned from making a speech without written permits, while the Westminster Council has approved a new bylaw that expands the ban to a larger area in the vicinity of the parliament square.

The five restriction zones provide the government with greater room to further squeeze civil liberties as the powers to implement them are open-ended, meaning officers can decide on where and how to use them at their own discretion, effectively giving them the power to make law in the restricted areas.

The government can also crack down on the undesirables that possibly include certain race groups or people with certain beliefs.

Officials made it clear before the Olympics that in the newly-introduced “exclusion zones” protesters face police with enhanced powers, including the right to use force to enter private properties and seize political posters.

There were fears that London will follow suit on other Olympic hosts, including Athens, which did not remove the new restrictions after the games.

Now such fears have partly materialized and the government can easily justify the continuation of the draconian measures, saying Britain faces threats from unwanted elements lurked inside its own cities and increasingly bigger surveillance would be needed to predict and contain such threats


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